Archive for the ‘Angst’ Category

Pop Music: I Get It. Everyone Needs a Big Mac Once in a While

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
Radio, video
Boogie with a suitcase
Your livin’ in a disco
Forget about the rat race
Let’s do the milkshake, sellin’ like a hotcake
Try some buy some fee-fi-fo-fum
Talk about, pop musik
Talk about, pop musik
– M

(Oh, yes. Yep. I sure did.)

I read this article, Hit Charade, in The Atlantic this morning. (Oddly, it was written last year – not sure why it popped up today, or where I saw it.) It’s a fascinating and disturbing discussion of the songwriters behind huge pop hits. Interestingly, the majority of this crap is created, via a fairly precise money-making formulaic process, by a handful of men (who are primarily middle-aged, white, and Scandinavian.) Finally, an article that kind of sums up why my eyes involuntarily roll when I have to hear this shit.

As producer Louis Pearlman put it:

. . . the Backstreet Boys went from playing in front of Shamu’s tank at SeaWorld to selling out world tours. Millennium, released in 1999, is one of the best-selling albums in American history. Pearlman then decided to start an identical boy band, performing songs by the same songwriters. “My feeling was, where there’s McDonald’s, there’s Burger King.”

That’s it! It’s fast food. It’s not good for you. They’re feeding you Big Macs.

No one can live on Big Macs.

I have a group of neighbors (and beloved friends) that I hang out with a lot. We joke about our differing tastes in music pretty often. I am the self-proclaimed music snob. They will play a song, or the radio will be on in their car, or they’ll be discussing pop music or the Billboard awards show? (I don’t know, I muted that conversation, ladies) or mention a song (or sometimes an artist) and I will say that I don’t know that song or artist. Years ago, they were in complete disbelief that I might not know a Beyonce or Drake or Maroon 5 or Taylor Swift song, or whatever, but I think they actually get that I REALLY DO NOT KNOW THAT SONG. NEVER HEARD IT BEFORE. I REALLY DO NOT LISTEN TO THE RADIO. (Okay, occasionally NPR or 97.1 THE RIVER, but I’m not talking classic rock here.) Now, to be fair, we can usually find some middle ground in classic rock or some eighties stuff. And also, so as not to be painting them all with the same brush, some also like stuff that I consider good. (You know who you are. Get over it. I am not painting you with my sweeping brush.)

This is not at all limited to that group, either. My own children like this pop crap. Nicky Minaj, and Selena Gomez, and other “artists” that all sound the same to me. We have a rule in our car that the driver gets to pick the music. I took my son and his friend to a baseball game one time and played my music in the car and they proceeded to toss me such insults as, “Pop music rules” and “Rock and roll sucks.” (My heart broke. The saving grace is that he actually has come around on that, and while he still listens to crap, he also has a nice appreciation for the harder stuff.)

Sometimes I think, “Well, I guess this means I’m really old now.” Other times I think, “Was this how mom and dad felt when I bought that “Like a Virgin” 45, or when I turned over the Some Great Reward cassette again and again for hours on end? There is no doubt in my mind what they were thinking when they saw this album come in the house.

I still remember. Dad did what Lisa and I refer to as “Cat Face.” It’s akin to Grumpy Cat; Cecil was the original grumpy cat. Cat Face was derived from Cecil getting the look my cat, Scully, had while riding in the car.

Super-tangential side note: I picked this album cover for its’ memorable parental shock value. Shocking at the time, but later, even more ridiculously fun teenage shock value moments of memory include the following:

  • My dad’s disgust over a Lubricated Goat CD lying in my car
  • A particularly heated discussion over dinner about whether Jesus might have masturbated, somehow precipitated by my recounting tidbits of a My Life With the Thrill Kill Cult show I had seen at Masquerade the night before.

I also used that album because it is one of those albums that I remember studying over and over, sitting in my room, looking at all the pictures while listening. It’s right up there with being a really little kid in our Alpharetta playroom, looking at the people on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s, or a few years after that, sitting in a den in our NY house, playing Rumours, and looking at the cover, wishing I had an outfit like Stevie’s, and wondering what the deal was with Mick’s weird dangling balls belt thingie. [/end tangent]

By the end of The Song Machine, readers will have command of such terms of art as melodic math, comping, career record, and track-and-hook . . . One term remains evasive, however: artist. In the music industry, the performers are called artists, while the people who write the songs remain largely anonymous outside the pages of trade publications. But can a performer be said to have any artistry if, as in the case of Rihanna, her label convenes week-long “writer camps,” attended by dozens of producers and writers (but not necessarily Rihanna), to manufacture her next hit? Where is the artistry when a producer digitally stitches together a vocal track, syllable by syllable, from dozens of takes? Or modifies a bar and calls it a new song?

The reason I can’t get into radio pop shit, but which i’ve never been able to put into words, is this: Where is the artistry? (Not lost on anyone is that the magical outpouring of Prince grief from every corner of the universe was due to his artistry, right?) This article, with its discussion of templates, and magic, proven formulas, and hooks, and emulation. . . gah. It almost made my head explode.

I fully admit that this is a rambling, quickly-penned-in-20-minutes-mess-of-a-post, devoid of it’s own artistry, but this article really struck a chord with me, based on a few recent discussions about my (supposed!) music snobbery. After reading this article, though, I think I am going to stop calling myself a music snob and just start saying that I like music that doesn’t come from a template cranked out by a machine. It seems I’m into Artistry. (Watch out, y’all. I’m now totally highbrow and fancy and stuff. Also, I like lyrics with ideas. Real ideas. And poetry. And imagery is nice, too.)

Small disclaimer:

  1. Some of this pop crap IS on my running list. Particularly, I’m thinking about that Kelley Clarkson song that is mentioned in the article as a Yeah Yeah Yeahs ripoff. But running is different – I like that dissociative feel of the repetition of a beat and the rhythmic pattern of my feet pounding the pavement.
  2. I am not really judging people who listen to the radio stuff. We like what we like. I just don’t feel like there is much about pop music that feeds my soul. But I get it: Everyone needs to eat a Big Mac every once in a while. They taste good, even if it’s not worth it, because you end up in and out of the office bathroom the rest of the afternoon.
  3. There are songs that my kids latch on to, radio songs that make me cringe, but that they cannot help but love. And I get it, those songs are like candies, little gum drops fed right into their sweet little cherub mouths. And so, let it be stated, I am not above a dance party with R. to Taio Cruz’ “Dynamite”; I may have gotten down with the girl to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” And yes, she adored that GODAWFUL ABERRATION of a song by Florida Georgia Line song, “Cruise.” It has been played in my car with the windows down, and damn it, yes, I sang along. Because when your 8 year old wants you to sing it with her, damn it, you sing.
  4. I really like Ryan Adams. Like, I love him with pink and red hearts that cry and expand and fly into the air and stuff. I will not apologize.

The real point of this post? Gratitude. I’m glad there are people out there still making the authentic, true, whimsical, beautiful, and terrible sounds of the individual and the experimental collectives of people coming together and creating original things of amazement and shock, even if it means that I have to make some effort to find them. And I’m thankful that I still feel compelled to seek them out. Just put a bullet in my head when I don’t want to find them any more. I’d rather be dead than live on Big Macs.

This Week in Beloved Pet Deaths: The Dog Who Knew All My Secrets

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

I wrote about putting my cat, Scully, down on Monday. And then today, I realized that my beloved dog, Quint, the one that I mentioned not even being able to write about yet, had died five years ago today. Seems like it’s time to start processing that loss. So, here’s a little bit of what he was like, my buddy, my very best friend ever.

He was a lover of the lake and babies.


A kid kisser.



Kids get a lot food on them, though. (Yes, I think that’s Tiller’s hair when she gave herself the Bowie haircut.)



He loved riding on the boat.



And curling up next to someone on the couch.



Or on the floor when they were sick and watching cartoons.



He let the kids dress him up and play with him, with no complaints.



And boy did he love going with us to the beach.



It seemed like he always wanted to be where the pack was, following me or the kids around.



He knew where the kids were is where I was.



And he loved, loved, loved going for rides with me in the car. He was totally my co-pilot.



And my foot warmer.



And my best friend.


The one to whom I whispered all my secrets, even the ones I was scared to say out loud, and who loved me anyway, and never told a soul.

Hope Springs Eternal: A Prayer

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

I’m having one of those evenings where I feel very lucky, but yet I can’t stop the tears rolling down my face. I can feel lucky and sad at the same time, apparently. My family is happy and healthy. I have my parents and my sister, and my husband and children, and they are all fine.

Still, I find myself looking up at the stars and saying a prayer for an old friend, and for a family member of a friend, and for a few other people I know who are hurting. I pray for our country, because all this hate and yelling and violence is wounding my soul, and I know I am not alone. I pray for all of those people who can’t quite wrap their heads around how seemingly good people can support something so toxic. I pray for the ones that love someone who has changed into someone they don’t know anymore.

Yes, Annelle, I pray. 

No, I don’t go to church. I don’t consider myself a Christian, much to my parents’ disappointment. I do, however, believe in The Universe, and that there are forces of good and evil, and that my prayers go somewhere, and are heard somewhere, even if the impact they make is infinitesimal. I believe that there is something so very Holy in Spring, and the hydrangea, daffodils, azaleas, roses, and daylilies that pop up in my garden today. They are my old friends.

The come back every year, even when the man who taught me to love them is gone. They come back, even though the people I love don’t always come back.

Hope springs eternal.

Or something like that.


A Dream So Vivid

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

I kneel in the dormer window of my childhood bedroom, but I’m an adult wearing a white, flowing nightgown. I am frantic, trying to shove the plastic window shade into the corners of the window panes to block out the streetlight streaming in around the edges of the shade. The edges won’t stick or wedge in, and the light is a shining pool across my face, body, and carpet. I am not sure if I am trying to block out the light from shining on me, or keep people from looking inside.

Suddenly, I’m downstairs in that same childhood house, dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and my black hoodie. Except the downstairs is no living area, but a black-walled, red-lit rock venue, with a stage and booths, and high black, industrial ceilings, almost warehouse-like. I am sitting across from an aging musician, black-clad himself. He is handsome but no longer young, a bit worn about the edges like a well-loved, subversive book. Looking more closely at him, the lines and years are more apparent. He works there. We discuss the sound for an event, raising our voices over the song playing out of the speaker above us.

We walk around the room looking up at the ceiling and he shows me the locations of speakers and wire. He stops under a gaping hole with jagged edges in the ceiling above us, points it out to me. “We call it the Dungeon,” he says with a wry smile. It appears as if a large object has ripped through the ceiling above. Through the hole, I can still see my bedroom bathed in the light of the streetlight. I wonder what caused the hole; What could have fallen through and created a hole so wide?

Something changes suddenly, in the way that change sometimes cracks time wide open, and I have to perform onstage. The stage, though, is across the room in the opposite corner, and I realize that whatever came through the ceiling created a massive crater in the concrete floor of the room and the hole is full of bright blue water, aquarium-like and brightly lit. I stand at the edge, and notice dark shapes moving smoothly through the water.

“Sharks,” I think to myself.

There are probably three of them, maybe four. As they cut through the water, one and then another jump out of the water in an arc, then make a smooth dive back under, continuing to circle the pool. I realize I have to make my way past the shark pool, and on to the stage at the other side of the pool. My breathing picks up. I look around for ways to get around the pool. There is no overhang between the walls and the edge of the pool, nothing to tightrope walk across. The man tells me we have to go on. We? I look to my right. Ty Segall is standing next to me. “I know how to get there. You  have to go through the sharks,” he says. He is shorter than I realized.

The panic is rising in me, but he says, “dive” and plunges in, a clean California surfer’s dive, and I feel sick, but dive in after him, my head feeling like it will explode with the pressure. I do not feel like I am cutting through the water like a swift, smooth shark. One of the sharks bumps me as I swim frantically, my arms feeling no propelling traction or friction, my clothes weighing me down. I am tiring and running out of breath. I see a shark coming out of a halo of bright light, straight towards me, as my hand touches the far wall, which is only the black-painted wooden edge of the stage. I haul my torso up over the lip of the edge, and kick my legs like a child learning to swim, trying to push my hips and legs up and over. I get a leg up and then just as I see a shark coming at me, pull the last of my leg and foot out of the way. The shark strikes the wall and I feel nothing, but imagine a thud. I roll over and lay on my back, sucking in air, then hear someone yell, “Watch out.” I see the shark jumping out of the water at my face, it’s teeth all red and white. It’s dead eyes must be fixed on me, but they show no recognition or light.

I wake up terrified, lying in cold sweat, the dream as vivid as a movie, so strange a dream that it awakened me so violently that I thought it must mean something.

It must mean something.

Stars Gaze Down, Uncaring

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Night falls

I cry until no tears are left, or so i think;

They keep coming, as hard as I’ve ever cried

or at least in 30 years.

I cry the tears of the girl

who wanted a horse with her soul.

She learned that sometimes you get nothing.

She sought refuge outside; I can’t go in until it is all out of her.

I beg the earth, help me.

I beseech velvet sky

and stars gaze down uncaring.

I sob, turn my palms to the heavens.

Give everything, promise everything

and pray to a god I don’t believe in, just in case.

I plead with god, make the pain stop.

I see myself from above, arms flung open

and I am the Pieta, grieving.

The universe never knew me,

or felt me as I know it, as I feel it.

A breeze blows to me.

Maybe that is you, Universe.

Maybe you feel pain

Maybe you wipe tears.

Perhaps there is nothingness.

I feel nothing and everything.

I am broken, more shattered than i have ever been.

My back is snapped and my neck at unnatural angles,

My face bears scars,

Yet I gaze up, still in wonder, at the stars, and a purple sky,

Still curious, how it goes on forever.

At the mercy of a Universe,

I wonder who will tell me I am only bent, not broken.

You Seem So Happy on Facebook

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

This post has been bubbling up for a while, and it’s not anything that hasn’t been said before. This is a post about perception and image. It’s about the face we put on for the world, and about the assumptions we make about others’ lives based on the face they choose to put on every day.

I talked to my close friend Camille for hours the other day. She is one of those prized and dear friends that knows me in and out, and whom I can go without talking to for months and then call and pick up as if we never skipped a beat. We have talked about it all over the years – boys, music, dreams, addiction, sexuality, marriage, fertility, friendship, siblings, parental relationships, and death. She has been through her rough spots, and I have been through mine. She’s currently in a great place. If you read my blog in the past year, you will know that I am in a rough spot that feels like being caught in the trough of a wave; I occasionally see over the horizon of the cresting wave, but mostly i feel like I am stranded in the trough, trying to get to the top of the wave so that I can see out in all directions. I’m treading water. I have good days and bad days. I have good minutes and bad minutes. I have laughter and tears, and laughter through tears. I’m working on it. I am a work in progress.

When I told Camille that things were okay, but not the best, she seemed genuinely surprised. “Wow. I had no idea things hadn’t gotten better. You seem so happy on Facebook.”

You seem so happy on Facebook.

How many times have you heard someone say that? Or “They seemed so happy.” “Her life seems so perfect.”I bet her house is never messy.”

I have always enjoyed Facebook. I guess I’m addicted. There are things I hate about it, but its strengths outweigh its weaknesses. I use it often to quickly chronicle things my kids do that I just want to put down in writing so i don’t forget. I stay in touch with family. I get to see and stay in touch with people that I never thought I would see again 15 years ago. I reconnected with and stay in touch with childhood friends i haven’t seen since moving in 4th grade, people from high school that i always liked but never would have kept up with otherwise, and college friends who have gone their separate ways, but whom i get to witness doing amazing things and living precious lives right in front of my eyes. Without Facebook, so many of you reading this would only be a sweet or funny memory. You would still be 7 or 17, or 27 years old in my mind’s eye. Instead, you are real people with real lives that continue with time; You grow, you change, you become things that I never imagined you would be. You often wow and amaze me.

I always get a little frustrated with people who hate Facebook because it ends up making them feel bad about themselves. It makes me happy to see old faces, to connect with new friends and learn more about them, and to follow bands and authors and comedians that I like. I don’t look at other people’s lives and think, “Wow. I really need to get my kids into more activities. Mine only play one instrument, know one language, play one sport.” “Wow, look how happy they look. They really have the perfect marriage.” “I wish my skin looked like hers.” “She must work out all the time. I wish I had a personal trainer.” “Why didn’t they invite me to lunch?” “Why didn’t they invite me to that party?” I guess it’s a matter of self-esteem for some. I haven’t had trouble with self-esteem since early high school. One day I just realized comparing myself to others was too exhausting.

There’s more to this, though. Not just the fact that we often compare ourselves to others, but the fact that we assume that the pretty family photo on the beach is that family’s life. Life is not a beach. Life is messy, and full of things that go unsaid. And honestly, we don’t really want to hear all the messy details. We want the pretty.

The perfect meals, pretty front doors, the crafts, and art, and jokes and music. The beautiful, smiling children. The wedding gowns. The couples who look as in love in photos today as they did 20 years ago. So for those who are comparing themselves to others, and thinking they wished their lives looked more like someone else’s, they need to remind themselves of what people don’t say on Facebook. It’s their anniversary. Of course they will wish each other a happy anniversary with a pretty wedding photo of the glowing newlyweds. You don’t not wish your spouse happy birthday, or happy anniversary, or “Congratulations! I am so proud of you for working so hard to get that new job.” You do all those things. We see them all, and we compare ourselves to them, but what are the things that are being left unsaid?

They don’t much talk about how depressed they are, or how confusing their sex life has become to them. Unless they are me. (I kid. Kind of.)

You tell your brother you love him on his birthday. Even if he knew about the treatment you had growing up all those years. Even though he never spoke up about it or acknowledges it now. It’s all there between you, but only the two of you see it.

You smile for the family photo in front of a Christmas tree, even though you know you are leaving your spouse after January 1st. It is just easier to smile. Your sister is smiling, too, even though she knows and it is still a secret. What else can she do? No one wants to ruin Christmas.

You post all those photos about your vegetable garden, or your love of yoga, or how much you ran that morning and what a high you got from those endorphins. None of your Facebook friends know that you absolutely need those endorphins, or the sunshine and dirt, or the deep breathing, just to make it through another day of the emotional desert that your life has become. The running, and flowers, and downward facing dog might be all that person has in the world that gives them joy.

The one who posts nothing but photos of her kids. What you don’t see: She is miserable and hasn’t had sex with her husband in over a year and doesn’t have the financial means, or the will to leave, or doesn’t want to hurt her children.

What an amazing handbag that person just bought. It’s beautiful. What you don’t see: She is $20,000 in debt.

Wow, those two couples seem like the best of friends. What we don’t see: Last night, two of them made out at a party. And not with their spouse.

The friend who travels and works, and lives in that amazing downtown loft with the view and seems to have the most fabulous life. She is lonely. She cries herself to sleep, thinking she will always be alone and never find someone to love, and wonders why she is so defective.

Can’t wait to see the new Marvel movie! What we don’t see. He is just thinking, how do i voice my worry to my depressed girlfriend? I love her and i want her to be happy, and I don’t know how to help her.

The person who cracks the jokes, posts the cat videos. . . what are they hiding? Bulimia, depression, heartbreak, divorce, addiction, that they hate their body, or wish they were dead, or hate their spouse of 50 years and wishes they would just go ahead and die, or the fact that they found out about their spouse’s affair and they’re just keeping it quiet for the sake of the kids, their own affair, the cancer diagnosis, their realization that they are gay, but can’t say it yet, the infertility, the impotence, the fears and guilt about their children, that they cried themselves to sleep because their mother does not remember their name, or the fact that they still haven’t gotten over their mother or father’s or dog’s death. These are real examples of things people have told me. People who confided in me, but who, if you looked at their Facebook profiles, seem pretty happy.  I cannot even begin to imagine the breadth of untold secret pain of so many people who seem so happy on Facebook.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is being left unsaid. A few people have told me, “I wish you would post more, blog more. I miss your writing.” What a wonderful compliment that is to me. I take it as such, but the truth is, there are often things that I leave unsaid. There are many reasons for omitting the dark, painful, brutal truths. I want to try and be positive. Focus on the good things. Be grateful for the beautiful moments. I don’t want to be a sad downer. As my mama taught me, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I don’t always take that lesson to heart, but i try sometimes. And so I write less. I post less.

A lot of y’all are probably thinking, “I thought she said everything. She says things that I could never say. I have always admired her brutal honesty and her ability to say the things I think, but don’t have the courage to say.” Writing this down, it sounds arrogant, but it is true, because people tell me this all the time. “Thank you for saying what I wanted to say, but was scared to say.” “I totally agreed with you on xyz, but I would never have said it in public.” What can I say. I have a big mouth, and I value the truth above almost all else.

Almost all else. I also value people’s privacy, their feelings, and my loved ones. There are so many things I don’t say because it might be painful to someone I know or love. Or because to say it would destroy everything. Or would be giving in to the darkness, and giving up. And so there is a framework to social media platforms like Facebook. There are things we really cannot say out loud. Even me.

When people ask me how I’m doing, I say okay. This is not a lie. They sometimes seem surprised that I am not completely fine now. I am better than I was. I am hopeful. I am trying to be more content in the moment, to slow down and enjoy the little things. I am trying to be grateful, and live in the moment. Those little contentments and momentary joys are the face I put on for the world.

But I still have some depression. I am still confused about a lot of things in life. I know that some things will not get better, that many things are a compromise, that so much of it is out of my control, and that the only surety is change. I am anxious about the unknown factors and variables in mine and my family’s life. I sometimes worry myself sick about friends, about my career choices, and about my marriage and family. I often feel like I’ve failed in promises to myself about what I want in life, about the things i planned to do but never did. I doubt my decisions. I wring my hands, don’t sleep, don’t eat, binge eat bowls of shame, drink too much. I keep things inside because I don’t want to cause others pain. I wake up sweating with my heart pounding about things I would never voice on Facebook, or on this blog. And I know I am not alone.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my 40s, it’s that we are all just children masquerading as adults. We hurt and yearn and cry and wish like children. We have situations that seem insurmountable, endings that are inevitable, situations that make us feel stuck in concrete, and which break our hearts. We never know quite what someone else is going through. We never really know what someone’s childhood was like, or what demons they battle, what road they have walked to get where they are, or what confusing crossroads they are at right this moment. The biggest lesson I have learned so far is that things are not always what they seem. We never know what is going on in someone else’s life, and that maybe it’s best not to judge someone unless we’ve walked their path. Chances are each person is on some journey of his or her own, one that might be slightly more or less difficult, more or less apparent, or just really different than our own.

So, the next time you are thinking, “They seem so happy,” think twice about it. Few of us live perfect lives.

p.s. If you do live a charmed or magical life, please list all your secrets for achieving perfection in the comments. All of them.


Update: Just wanted to add a big “Thank you” to all of you who shared my post. I take that as a huge compliment and it really means the world to me.

That Way Madness Lies

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

No, I will weep no more. In such a night

To shut me out? Pour on; I will endure.

– William Shakespeare

Hello, My name is Anne.

If you asked me who I was a year ago, I would have said, Granddaughter, Daughter, Sister, Cousin, Mother, Friend. I would have said that I am sure of myself, of my place in the world, of who I am, what I want, where I want to go. I would have said that I was comfortable with myself and all around me, and that the things I were uncomfortable with I dealt with or cut out of my life with ease. Above all, I would have said I am a Loyal, Honest, and Truthful person, in all of my dealings with myself and with those I care about, and that my life was easy and mostly satisfying.

I am not the same person I was a year ago.

I am still many of those things I listed above, but I am more than that, less than that, and I am changed. I am no longer so sure of my place in the world, or what my name means. What am I now?  Yes, I am definitely still a Daughter, Wife, Sister, Mother.  I am still a writer, a gardener, and a piss poor runner. I am still competitive. I still have brains. I still believe in right and wrong. I still love tomatoes, dogs, music, beer, days floating on the lake, and nights gazing up at the expansive starry sky. I still have my sense of humor. It is darker than it was.

I am more than I was, though. I am a learner. I am a questioner. I am a thinker and an over-thinker. Yes, I was these things before. Yes, I do these things too much. I always have. I am learning that I am both weaker and stronger than I thought I was, that there are things I cannot say aloud, and things I cannot say to others. In my arrogance, I never thought that was the case before, but I just hadn’t run into the things in my mind that were too dark and shameful to speak aloud.

I am a person often bored, sometimes sad, and occasionally in pain. I am learning to recognize these feelings for what they are and to embrace them as such, to let them come sit with me instead of pushing them away, but learning to not let them sit inside me and consume me. I name them and tell them they can be here with me, or they can go, but that they cannot control me.

I am learning to be more present. I have, in the past, been very good at being in the present. You see, the present is very easy to be in when the present is pleasant. It is much more difficult to be in the present when the present is painful or when there feels like no way out of the present. My present has been uncomfortable, and even painful, this past year, and I have slipped into questions of whether or not I made the right choices in the past and even more into paralyzing anxiety about the future. I have been unable to make myself mindful and in the present, because the present sometimes hurts or makes me feel guilty or simply seems insurmountable or hopeless. In the past year, I actually felt the biological imperative of Fight or Flight. I felt it in my mind, my bones, and my heart.

I made a conscious decision to stay and fight.

I took this self-portrait last night. It isn’t technically good. It looks awful. But this is the one that most captured who I am and what I feel, right here, right now, in March 2015. Light and dark and all.

I think one day I will look back at her and I will know who she was, what she went through, and I will know who she becomes, and I will be proud of her for sticking it out when the going got tougher than she ever thought it would.


“Self-Portrait: That Way Madness Lies”, March 18, 2015



Saying the Ghosts Out Loud

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

One of the good things about therapy is that I am forced to speak my thoughts and feelings. They are no longer floating around in my head like ghosts that materialize when I open a closet door in my mind. So many doors. Left unsaid, I just slam the door shut on the ghosts, and they are stuck inside, while I rest my weight on the door, and wonder why I can’t stop opening and closing it. Once spoken, I can’t shut the door on them again. They’re out, and someone else sees and hears them too.

The same goes for speaking things in real life, off the therapist’s couch. I’m at the point in my therapy where things are starting to get. . . interesting. I knew I had issues that were affecting me in negative ways, obviously, or I would have never gone to therapy in the first place. But now, we are getting past the issues: The things that cause me pain, scare me, make me feel sad, or guilty, or angry. Now we are getting to the Whys.

Why does this cause me pain? Why did I do this thing, or not do this other thing? Why am I scared to say this or that to my husband or to myself?

It’s easy enough to say

I’m bored. I’m frustrated. I’m sad. I’m resentful.

And so on. The real dirt of the matter, though, is

Why am I these things? What things in my life are making me feel this way?


What things in my life are missing that make me feel this way?

This is all very vague and non-specific for a person as honest and forthcoming as myself, probably boring to read because you want to know the What emotions? and the Why? of it. I will say that one of the things making me miserably unhappy of late is my inability to put into words to myself and those around me what exactly I was feeling, and the things that were making me feel [insert a bajillion emotions]. Voicing those things, to myself, my therapist, and to the people affected by and affecting me has improved my outlook a lot. The hardest part is taking what I see clearly on the therapist’s couch, and bringing it home with me to work on outside of that safe, non-judgmental cocoon of a room. It is one thing to say something difficult to a therapist whom you are paying to listen, and who is not going to be hurt or angered by it. It is a whole other ball of wax to sit in front of the people you love most in the world and know that, in order for things to be better, in order for you to get better, you are going to have to say the difficult ghost words. The ones that may be difficult to hear, or cause pain or anger or defensiveness in someone you care about. And if you are lucky, like I am, they will listen, and they will offer their thoughts, and you will not regret having brought it up. And really, I think even if you don’t get the calm reaction you hoped for, you still might feel better, and voicing things still gives you and your people room to grow, and things to work toward.

I still have a ton to work on. Self-exploration and self-improvement are long and hard and slow-going, and they are never quite finished. Being unable to voice the feelings and the whys is where I found myself paralyzed; It feels good to start working past that, one step, one word, one ghost at a time.

Getting Back in the Boat

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

I have been to two counseling sessions now. I wrote about the first session recently. My second session was last Wednesday, and we quickly got down to brass tacks. (I am a word nerd. I had to look up the origin of that phrase.) We dived right into my homework assignment, going over the whole thing a bit, but most importantly, focusing on those issues that were causing me the most problems currently. I identified Pain, Guilt, Anxiety/Worry, and a general inability to get out of my head, and into the present.

That last one is important. It very much informs the others, especially the anxiety/worry. I have experienced it before: So worried about what I should have done, or what is lost, or what I don’t have, or what might or might not happen in the future, that I cannot let go of my thoughts and simply experience the present. Over the years, though, I have learned how to manage these thoughts, bringing my brain back to the now, pushing the thoughts of what was, or what might be, out of my head. I know that it is true that the moment, the now, the present, is where the happiest people live.

I’ve lost touch with the present, as if I were afloat in a dark sea, the present a boat I held onto by a lifeline. The line slipped out of my grasp, and it’s just out of reach. I know it is right there. I can see it, but I can’t quite reach it. I have forgotten how to swim for it.

My counselor and I agreed that I need to work on that first: I need to work on getting back to the boat. We discussed the reasons I lost the boat in the first place, why it hurts, the things that worry me, the sources of my anxiety, and the guilt that all of this is causing me to feel so completely disconnected from everything and everyone that I love.

All of that is well and good, but how does one take that first stroke? What are the practical ways for me to get back into the present? I thought I would share some of the tools we went over, because it helps cement them for me to write them down (even though I know many of them, but I have just lost sight of them), and because it might help someone else.

  • I need to get more exercise. This is a no-brainer for me. Exercise has kept me off antidepressants for years.
  • Generally be more healthy. Eat better. Take my vitamins (especially B vitamins). Drink less.
  • Pet therapy. Spend more time with animals.
  • Make a concerted effort to go out more with friends, and to lean on them for support.
  • Allow myself to be sad, and to give in to it, but feel it and then move on. Don’t wallow in it. Don’t let it consume me.
  • Listen to happy music, watch happy tv shows and movies

There are a few others, but these stuck out to me.

Exercising: The exercise is something practical I can do and I know it works. So, I walked on Thursday. I ran on Friday. I played soccer yesterday. (No subs, so I played the whole game. Trying to keep up with 20-somethings on a soccer field will keep you in the present pretty well, as will struggling to breathe.)

Eating Healthier:  For me, this means eating. When I get sad or anxious or depressed I lose my appetite. So, I have been eating a few bites of things, and then feeling full and sick. I’m just going to concentrate on making healthy choices, and eating what I can, and on taking my vitamins. We just won’t talk about the box of TGI Fridays frozen baked potato skins that found their way into my shopping cart at Kroger yesterday.  And drink less? Well, I’m a work in progress.

Pet Therapy. Easy peasy. I got that one.

Hanging Out with Friends: I have been doing this okay, knowing that I won’t feel better if I don’t ever get off the couch. For the last few months, events, gatherings, and dates with friends that I would normally be excited about have become things that i dread. Part of it is the sheer weight of depression. Know one can really understand how heavy a weight depression is until they experience it for themselves. It actually feels like having a ton of bricks weighing you down. It makes you cloudy and fuzzyheaded. It dulls everything around you, and you feel little but pain or nothingness on the inside. Getting off the couch, getting out out of bed, getting in the shower, getting dressed. All of them are a struggle and feel like a monumental task. And all of this means that I have had to force myself to get up, get dressed, go out, and make conversation. Conversation is hard when you are preoccupied with pain and depression. Things that would normally be fun and interesting to discuss suddenly seem trivial and absurd.

However, I have made the effort even before the counselor told me to work on it, and there have been moments where I was in the now, and I was engaged, and I forgot I was sad and depressed for the moment. I know that this will work if I keep working at it. As for the support, I have some of the most supportive family and friends in the world, and they have been pretty great. I am also trying to remember what it is like to be on their side of the coin – it is heartbreaking to watch someone struggle, and be helpless to do anything about it. So, if you have been my shoulder to cry on, or my ear to bend, I thank you.

Allowing Sadness, But Not Wallowing in It:  Well, I am pretty much the Master of Sadness right now. What I am not a master of is the “not wallowing” and the “not letting it consume me.” I have totally been consumed by sadness for a few months now. And it has to stop. I’m working really hard on this one.

Listening/Watching Happy Stuff:  Honestly, I don’t even watch that much TV in the first place.  The depression has caused me to be unable to focus on TV and books at all. But oh, the music. That one I am going to struggle with a lot. It could be its own post all on its own. Music. I listen to music about 8-10 hours a day while I work and commute. Sometimes, I will listen to a podcast or audiobook, but mostly I listen to music. And I like dark music. Heavy music. Sad music. Music with sarcastic, sardonic, dark, or sad lyrics. Melancholy music. Music in the minor keys. Music that sounds like wading through sludge. Todd jokes around with me about some of the heavier stuff I listen to, calling it “Plod rock.” (It is “plodding.” It “plods.” Whatever. I like it that way.)

So, I visibly cringed when he gave me this assignment. I do have some happy music that makes me happy, but the weird thing is that usually even the sad and pretty stuff makes me happy. The loud and angry make me happy.  But I am trying to do what he says. I went to him to help me, and I need to at least give this one a shot. So, I am also hoping to hear some suggestions of “happy” music to listen to. This is complicated, of course, because I am not a fan of popular music. I cannot name a PitBull song. I do not like Maroon 5 or Justin Timberlake. I don’t listen to the radio much. Maybe the oldies station. I am going to bristle at some of these suggestions. (I will just suppress that reaction. Must. not. mock.) My go-to Happy music tends to be things like Beastie Boys or maybe some happy Beatles songs. Maybe some uplifting U2 songs that I listen to when I run would work. Maybe some happier Stevie Wonder or Jackson 5. I am sure that there are other ones that I am just not thinking of, and I need to work on pulling some of those together, but I also like to listen to new music, so anything happy and new would be good.

I’m not sure why or when this turned into my personal therpy journal, but I guess it is when I turned inward myself. If you read this far, you deserve some kind of certificate or medal, i think, but I’d be interested in hearing your happiness suggestions.

How do you get yourself back in the boat?


Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

I have been pretty open about the fact that I’m struggling lately, so I think I will mention every once in a while how therapy is going. I figure that talking about it might help someone, especially if they have never been to therapy before.

One of the things that happens when you go to counseling/therapy (or “therpy” as Pop used to call it) is that you and the counselor discuss your background and go over your issues at a very high level. (There is also a lot of discussion of privacy and patient confidentiality and insurance.) After all that, at the end, they give you homework.

The homework that they give you at that first visit is pretty. damn. daunting. I’ve been picking up those homework pages all week, and then setting them back down with a sigh.

– “What do you want?”
– “How do you envision your life when you reach your goals?”
– “How will you know when you get there?”

(I mean, really? Does anyone really know how to measure that, even if they are happy all the time? Aren’t we all just works in progress, always working towards there, but never getting there?) There were a number of other very specific questions (and by specific, I mean worded in such a way that you cannot prevaricate when answering.)

“What do I most want?”
“What is it that is causing my problems?” (be those anxiety, depression, anger, resentment, etc.?)
“What exactly is causing me pain?”

Please, Dear Reader, imagine for a moment asking yourself that last question. Now imagine yourself dredging the depths of your brain and your heart for the answer to that question. There are answers to it that are easy to say, but those snap answers, the ones you would say if a friend asked you this question, are very likely prevarication.

Dig deeper. Answer the question as if only you will ever hear the answer.


So, that’s where I am. All in all, I’ve felt pretty crazy and not at all myself of late. It’s good, though, to know that there is some “me” left inside: Procrastinators unite! Yeah, I totally put off doing my homework until the night before it was due. Total Roswell-High-School-Ms.-Swearingen’s-Great Expectations-project flashback. The funny thing is that, in 9th grade, I thought that was insurmountable.

Maybe in another 30 years I will look back on tonight’s homework and laugh at the fact that I ever found any of this difficult.